|After a concussion derailed the early part of his season, Bertuzzi has found his comfort level. |
Since the smiles haven't been coming a lot the past two seasons, it's a relief to hear Todd Bertuzzi say he's "having fun" playing the game lately. The usually stoic Bertuzzi has reason to be happy, since he's playing his best hockey in a long time. It's something he had hoped would happen much sooner after he was signed by the Ducks over the summer.
After back surgery and a concussion limited Bertuzzi’s 2006-07 campaign to just 31 total games (15 in the regular season and 16 in the playoffs) between Florida and Detroit, Bertuzzi was glad to be healthy to start this season. But while just getting comfortable with the Ducks, the Sudbury, Ontario native suffered another concussion after a hit from Minnesota enforcer Derek Boogaard on Oct. 14. The injury would end up costing him another 14 games.
“I think at that point in time it just felt like one thing after another,” Bertuzzi said. “You just get frustrated and start wondering if it’s going to end. A lot of things cross your mind, retiring and so on. Luckily, I ended up healing up. It took a lot longer than I thought, but, I’m feeling really good right now and hope to continue it.”
After returning to the Ducks’ lineup Nov. 21, Bertuzzi has rebounded nicely, and is currently playing some of his best hockey. Along with tallying nine points (three points, six assists) in his last nine games, Bertuzzi had his best game in a Ducks uniform on Wednesday in the team’s 5-0 thrashing of Toronto. Including a nifty move he put on netminder Vesa Toskala to score the Ducks’ first goal in the game, Bertuzzi had a season-high three points against the Maple Leafs, which was his highest output since a four-point game on Oct. 6, 2006 while with Florida.
“I’m just having fun,” Bertuzzi said. “I haven’t had fun in awhile playing hockey. This is the most fun that I’ve had in a long time.”
A big reason for Bertuzzi’s enjoyment is the harmony that he’s recently found on a line with Ducks top scorers Ryan Getzlaf (48 points) and Corey Perry (38 points).
“Playing with those two, obviously it’s going to help,” Bertuzzi said. “I just hope to help chip in with those guys and try to be a dominate line each and every night.”
Bertuzzi’s current line situation contrasts the early season, when the big-bodied forward struggled to establish chemistry with former Duck Andy McDonald on the team’s second line.
“It’s tough to adjust to new linemates,” said Mathieu Schneider, who is now playing with Bertuzzi for the third stop in their careers. “Forwards, especially creative ones, really have to be think alike. Bert needs to have the puck. Right now he has the puck an awful lot and it makes a big difference in his game.”
Primarily a right wing most of his career, Bertuzzi asked Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle to put him on the left wing, which would allow him to play with Getzlaf and Perry. Carlyle has noticed the difference since making the change.
“He feels more comfortable playing the left side with us,” Carlyle said. “Playing with Getzlaf and Perry, it allows him to play with two other players who have similar skill sets. They are big-body people who can do things with the puck. Right now, it’s working for them.”
Glad to see injuries hopefully behind his friend and teammate, Schneider thinks Bertuzzi has just begun to hit his stride.
“You’re just starting to see him really get comfortable,” Schneider said. “He’s dominant. He can be such a huge impact player. It’s rare to see a guy with that much size and skill.”